Seamless sweater?

michaelpthompson's picture

OK, so like I told Quinton in another post, I'm working on a theoretical way to make a sweater with no seams. I think I have the idea in my head, except for one place, which I'll mention in a moment.

I'm making a Weasley Sweater for my sister-in-law for Christmas. Some of you may remember I made one for my brother two years ago. My first sweater. The pattern calls for knitting the back first, then the front. Then you seam them together at the shoulders and measure down from the shoulder and place markers for the armholes. You pick up between the markers and knit the sleeves flat. Then you pick up around the neck and finish that off, then seam up each side and down the sleeve to put it all together.

Not a bad design (other than the neck hole, which I'll mention in a moment), but I found that flipping that whole mass over at the end of each row was quite ungainly. Plus, I like the idea of knitting in the round now, more than seaming. I don't mind seaming as some do, but I like the strength and uniformity of seamless fabric.

So this time, I doubled the cast on and knit in the round up to the arm hole, then put a lifeline in the front and knit the back up to the neck. Then I put the front back on the needles and knit that up to the neck. It didn't occur to me until I had already bound off at the shoulders (per instructions) that if I had just put those last stitches on holders, I could have done a Kitchener or three-needle bind off or something that wouldn't leave a seam.

It also occurred to me later that I could have done something similar with the neck decreases. The pattern calls for stocking stitch until you get a certain length, then you put the center stitches of the neck on a holder and do each side separately, decreasing at the center. I figured if I put those decreases on a holder instead of k2tog or SSK, then when I came back to do the neckband, I could just put them all back on the needle, instead of picking up the ones between the two stitch holders (front and back). It's not that bad, but it does leave a kind of ridge that's not present on the ones that were on the holders.

This is my theory at least, if anybody has done this in practice, I'd love to hear about it. As I said, it didn't occur to me until afterward. The only place I can't see how you'd do invisibly would be picking up at the armholes for the sleeves. You're going 90 degrees to the edge of the body, so I don't know how you'd do that. I have seen sweaters that seem to have been made top down, sleeves first, then decrease to the body, but they're flat and seamed. Can't imagine a way to do that in the round.

I guess you get time to do a lot of thinking with endless miles of stocking stitch, so perhaps this explains why I've been theorizing about this.

BTW, this is a nice pattern, based on the sweaters Mrs. Weasley made for Harry and her children in the Harry Potter movies. The original calls for Rowan Tweed wool, but I ran across some Red Heart fleck that looks very similar so I confess I went on the cheap with these. They're kind of novelty items really. And with the addition of ribbing at the waistband, and a ribbed neckband, you could make something less "homey" if you wanted.

Only think I really find odd is the size of the neck hole. It's huge. With a stretchy ribbed neckband, I think I would make that smaller. I'll post photos when I can.

michaelpthompson's picture

You have a good point there

You have a good point there Shawn, and it is one thing I'm considering in this process. I was in my LYS the other day, discussing various projects with the owner, and she told me that even the side seams carry weight, and help the garment drape well. I guess it does make sense, the seam is not stretchy like the knit fabric, so it helps support the whole thing, even down the sides. I hope mine doesn't sag and bag too much.

ronhuber's picture

The comment that side seams

The comment that side seams help the fabric drape is used by people who don't like knitting in the round or by people who don't know how, or by people who love to construct by sewing pieces together. I admire those people immensely and am glad that they have found a manner of knitting sweaters that they like and are statisfied with. Those same people will tell you to seam with the mattress stitch which is just as stretchy as knitted fabric. And if seams are so useful why not have two or three more running up the back and a couple more running up the front. Shirts that have extra seams have them to prevent drape. I always find it odd that shawls drape themself so beautiuflly without the help of of twenty seams running through them. IMHO sweaters drape from the neck and/or shoulders not from the sides. If your sweater bags and sags it is because the fabric is not dense enough and because you have knitted it too loosely. If it does sag and bag, think of how ugly it would be if it had a rigid seam running up each side. However, your sweater is knit in the round and if it does sag and bag it will do so uniformly and not be noticeable. Michael, just keep knitting sweaters the way your want to and experiment with different techniques that suit you. I just think that a tube without seams would move with your body much better than one with rigid seams running up the side. Most historians say that all sweaters were knit in the round (ganseys and Fair Isle sweaters are still done that way by people who carry on the tradtions) and were changed to flat by machines that couldn't knit in the round.
Golly, I needed that rant! Thanks.

kiwiknitter's picture

Well said, Ron and it needs

Well said, Ron and it needs to be said. Pieced knitwear mimics sewn garments made with woven fabrics. It came about as people wanted to imitate the garments made from cotton, linen and etc. Thanks for sharing this.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Great job working it all out

Great job working it all out in your head, Michael. However, as HuskerChub pointed out, there are lots of resources to help make it easier. Besides Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker, there is also the traditional bottom up fisherman's gansey that is knit up similar to what you've come up with. Seamless shoulders aren't a bad idea, though, depending on how much you'll wear the finished sweater. Your 3 needle bindoff is often used for ganseys as a way to make a strong join that can be relatively hidden or, if you choose, a part of the final design. Anyhow, the main thing is that you're pushing the envelope and attempting to work out things you find challenging. And that has to be a good thing. After all, if you were knitting in true isolation and didn't have access to various learning tools, that's what you'd have to do anyhow...unless you wanted to be a knitter who never varied how they did things. [Which is okay, also.]

michaelpthompson's picture

Thanks for the encouragement

Thanks for the encouragement as always Joe. :-)

Actually, the traditional fisherman's gansey forms a lot of the inspiration for these ideas. I haven't made one yet, but it's definitely on my list. I always want to do everything at once. So much knitting to do, so little time, eh?

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

"So much knitting to do, so

"So much knitting to do, so little time, eh?"
How very true. I find myself inspired by ganseys all the time, also. I've been saying I'll knit one for the last 30+ years. One of these days, I'll surprise everyone and actually accomplish it.
And you are welcome for the encouragement. We can always use that.

HuskerChub's picture

Michael, You really *need*


You really *need* to check out Elizabeth Zimmerman, many of her patterns are "seemless" there is only a small seem in the underarm. Knit to body in the round, knit the sleeves in the round up to the underarm, put them all on the same needle and knit to the shoulder/neck. Of course, there is the seemless topdown constructions also...see Knitting From the Top, Barbara Walker. In Walker there are many different types of sleeves, raglan, set-in, drop etc all from the top down as well as skirts and pants.

As far as your comment about a seemless shoulder, that is a very bad idea. All of the weight of a shirt or sweater hangs off of the shoulder seem. It's kind of like the foundation of a house, if you don't have a strong foundation the house will not last; if you don't have a good, strong shoulder seem your sweater is not going to hang right and will not stand up to wear.